The National Hockey League got back to business at 11:59 Eastern time Sunday evening, as the Olympic roster freeze lifted.
With their first post-break game arriving Thursday against Montreal, the Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t waste much time getting their ducks in a row, recalling forward Brian Gibbons and defenseman Simon Despres from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Gibbons has played 19 games in Pittsburgh this season, including the final six before the Olympic break. According to NHL bylaws, he was eligible to return to the AHL while the NHL was on hiatus, so he played in six games for the WBS Pens over the past two weeks, plus the AHL all-star game.
Gibbons has nine points (4g, 5a) in NHL action this season, most of it coming since top-line winger Pascal Dupuis suffered a season-ending knee injury in late December. With Beau Bennett still working toward a comeback from his broken wrist, Gibbons should get heavy minutes in the meantime.
Despres, meanwhile, hasn’t played an NHL game since Jan. 7. He’s skated in 34 AHL matches this season, recording 22 points (6g, 16a) in two separate stints in northeast Pennsylvania.
The 2010 first-round draft pick was sent down in early January once veteran defensemen Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi re-established themselves in the Penguins lineup following injuries. Now, with Martin rehabbing an undisclosed hand ailment he sustained while playing for Team USA at the Olympics, Despres may get another chance to make a good impression in Pittsburgh.
An offensive-minded blueliner, Despres has just four assists in 18 NHL games this season.